NOTTINGHAM, MD—Developing and delivering accessible remote learning for students who have complex needs and abilities can be challenging under ideal conditions. The Maryland School for the Blind staff is going above and beyond to continue to deliver quality educational and support services remotely to their hundreds of visually impaired and multiply disabled students across the State of Maryland during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The staff at MSB are using technology and creative programming to meet the students’ needs by tailoring a distance learning plan for each student, including delivery of the appropriate physical materials, technology and resources needed to accomplish each goal.
The team of professionals including teachers, therapists, social workers, career, residential and recreation specialists are finding creative ways to engage students through on-line platforms and social media groups. Many are leading virtual classes, events, and activities. The physical education and athletic coaches are even conducting a virtual track and field team since the team’s season was cancelled.
Heather Johnson, MSB Braille Instructor, has been planning and creating braille reading and writing activities and mailing them home to her students since the day school closed on March 13th. She has been touching base via video and email to review her students work and to connect and answer questions from their families. She has recorded videos of herself giving directions, shared videos on how to load braille paper, care for a braille writer and how the braille dots correspond with the keys.
Music is bringing people together more than ever during this uncertain time and even though she can’t be with her students in person, Danielle Long, MSB Music Therapist, has created her own YouTube Channel for students and their families. She has been adding music therapy session playlists, “music choice” activities, as well as curated playlists featuring music related to various goals or topics.
At MSB, the dedication and investment in student success does not end in the virtual classroom. While surveying the needs of students, administrators discovered that some families weren’t able to get to food distribution locations for student meals. A group of staff immediately jumped in and volunteered to deliver meals to families throughout the state on a daily basis, while following all social distancing, health, and safety protocols.
“This has not been an easy adjustment especially for students and staff who rely on tactile, hands-on instruction or one-on-one therapeutic services, but our students and staff have impressed me with their flexibility and resiliency in adapting to this new normal,” said W. Robert Hair, MSB Superintendent. “Although challenging, we have discovered new methods to deliver the high quality educational and support services that our students deserve and for which we are known.”
As a statewide resource center, MSB provides outreach, educational and residential services for students to reach their fullest potential by preparing them to be as successful, independent, and well-rounded contributing members of their communities as possible. Annually MSB serves approximately 1,200 students identified in Maryland who are blind or visually impaired from birth to age 21. T